The Mixed Realty Commute: Education for the Telepresence Gig Economy

First there were remote-operation robots for nuclear waste clean up, then remote-operation drone warfare. Now we’ve moved on to the rather more mundane task of remote-operation fast food delivery. I was motivated to finally sit down and start to write the back-story to defense department simulations and workforce-aligned project based learning after seeing a tweet about Kiwibots.

Kiwibots

It’s a complex story, so this will be the first of a multi-part series.

Here I will touch on robotics, mixed reality, and Blockchain within the context of a globalized service-sector workforce. I then plan to discuss:

1) How Executive Order 13111, signed by Bill Clinton in 1999, set up a national training advisory committee whose members linked the work-based education model described in Marc Tucker’s “Dear Hillary Letter” to technology and debt finance.

2) The military origins of competency based education and “intelligent” digital tutoring systems.

3) How the entertainment industry teamed up with the Defense Department in the mid 1990s to develop mixed reality training environments using games and simulations, which resulted in the creation of USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies.

4) How global philanthropies and video game developers plan to using Transmedia storytelling, developed by the military, to catalyze behavior change in service of impact investing markets, and how that intersects with developments in digital medicine, executive function brain training, and mental health assessment.

5) How Blockchain credentialing will link wearable technology and virtual reality to demonstrations of competencies for globalized AI human resource contracting.

6) The role the National Laboratory for Education Transformation has played in creating infrastructure for the digital engineering of US labor.

7) Lastly how Convergence’sEducation Reimagined” campaign aligns with the above.

I want to first draw your attention to an excerpt from a 2014 white paper prepared by the American Alliance of Museums on the future of education. In it Elizabeth Merritt, founder of their Center for the Future of Museums, posits a future where today’s children no longer have access to “traditional jobs,” but rather must patch together bits of work meted out in a TaskRabbit economy. Thus schools need to be transformed to facilitate that transition.

TaskRabbit

The last time I was in New York, over the summer, it seemed TaskRabbit had bought up much of the advertising space on the subway system. Poster after poster extolled the merits of hiring someone via app to watch children or put together Ikea bookcases. What I want to point out here is that while TaskRabbit represents SOME of the work being contracted out on gig platforms, quite a lot of precarious labor is actually service sector work that has been pushed online. Consider the many underpaid teachers trying to pay their bills by picking up early-hours shifts tutoring kids in China through VIP Kid. Now combine platformed work with remote control robotics, and looks like we’ve got a whole new ball game for dislocated “labor” coming in the next decade or so.

Ok, now more about Kiwibot.

Frank Pasquale Kiwibot

Kiwibot pays Colombians $2 per hour to operate vehicles with GPS and cameras. The robots complete the last leg of app-initiated fast food delivery runs thousands of miles away on Berkeley’s campus. Apparently someone decided it was more cost effective to use robots for part of the route than to pay human couriers to do the entire thing: globalized lean production enabled by human-computer interfaces. I have a friend who’s quite prescient in her assessment of labor automation. In her view, robots won’t actually replace people over the short run, but instead ensure the work left to be done is wretched, physically and mentally taxing, and under-paid. A squad of contingent labor, remote control fast food robot operators waiting on college students at an elite, Bay Area university seems to exemplify this perfectly. So many layers of wrong here. SO MANY.

Kiwibot Burrito Robot

It’s not surprising this would show up at Berkeley. This spring, university researchers announced the roll out of Blue, a relatively inexpensive ($5,000) lightweight robot for domestic use. Blue is designed to learn by doing AND from human assistants-remote operators. Yes, it seems we are supposed to teach the robots to be more human so they can replace us.

Domestic robots are now under development in Japan, which has actually welcomed the use of social robots as pets and companions for the children and the elderly. By 2020 wealthy households may be able to rent glorified Roombas with a low-wage workers in other countries attached. Beyond clothes folding, advances are also being made in remote-control robots designed for security, policing, and ground-based combat. Coming upon one of QINETIQ’s MAARS (Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System) robots, developed in coordination with the US Army and Marine Corps, in a remote corner of the Arizona desert would be like something out of a Black Mirror episode. For all you parents with kids in school-based robotics programs, here’s a sneak peek at where this is all headed. #Progress (?)

MAARS Security Robot

Robot Butler Remote

We need to understand the “future of work” so keenly discussed in Davos and at Aspen Institute meet-ups revolves around the so-called “knowledge economy,” stuff folks get paid to do, mostly online. People mashed up with digital technologies, labor conditions where human-computer-robot-artificial intelligence interactions in mixed (augmented and virtual) reality environments will become increasingly commonplace. Labor broken down into an infinite menu of “skills,” both cognitive and social-emotional-behavioral, that are represented as badges or codes (imagine health care billing codes) that can be screened at lightening speed by algorithms assigning micro-work.

Besides remote-controlled robotics, we also have telepresence robots where a moveable apparatus holds a device allowing a person to interact remotely through the screen. The first time I saw this was an interview with Edward Snowden who’s evidently been using a “Snowbot” since 2014. It’s being normalized in education and healthcare settings, too. The latter got quite a bit of negative attention after a robot doctor gave a patient at a Kaiser Permanente hospital in Fremont, CA a terminal diagnosis.

And now telepresence robots with hands and haptic sensor gloves for the operators.

While there are benefits, like the ability to work from home, the flip side is that if YOU can do the work remotely, OTHERS can, too…from parts of the world where wages are much lower. Hence the Kiwibot scenario. So now freelance “knowledge workers” are going to be forced to compete for gigs against peers across multiple time zones. Everyone will have to become an entrepreneur of their quantified self, curating a digital brand to sell over and over and over in a globalized marketplace.

We started with offshored customer service and IT support, and now we’re looking at the worldwide Uberization of education, healthcare, and other service jobs. On demand skills for just-in-time-tasks contracted out with no stability or benefits to profit those who already have way too much stuff and power. It’s a plan only Bezos, Thiel, Zuckerberg, and Goldman Sachs could love.

To add yet another wrinkle, advances in haptic controllers (technologies that provide tactile feedback in digital environments like virtual reality) mean we will likely see remote workers not only managing screen-based work, but also being virtually present in remote locations doing “physical” work via robotic interfaces in the not too distant future. So, not just burrito delivery robots, but also remote-operation machinists or, as depicted in the Microsoft video below, blackjack dealers. Ericsson in Sweden is a leader in developing cutting-edge, fourth industrial revolution factories. They, too, are developing remote operation, virtual reality haptic systems.

Ericsson Haptics

Another crucial take-away from the Kiwibot business plan is the concept of micro-work. In the repressive world of managerial consulting, everything revolves around creating efficiencies in globalized supply chains. Imagine Fordism, but without living-wage salaries; breaking down tasks into smaller and smaller chunks people must cobble together to attempt to meet their basic needs.

Amazon launched the MTurk crowd-sourced micro-work platform in 2005, a decade after the WTO was set up. A 2015 study done by Donna Vakharia (now at PayPal) and Matthew Lease at UT Austin compared paid crowd work platforms other than MTurk, identifying areas for further investigation to advance the market sector. The info-graphic below shows areas needing improvement: namely, collection of worker analytics for quality control and automation of work assignments.

MTurk

Crown Work Table UT Austin 2014

 

The other part of the micro-work equation is how the outsourcing is done, the micro-contracts for work and payments. In late-stage, globalized capitalism, scale and speed are paramount. There is little time for back and forth evaluating a worker’s skills or contracting out the tasks. That’s the niche Blockchain is intended to fill. Self sovereign digital identities are intended hold a person’s competencies, reputation scores, legal documents and facilitate work and payment agreements.

Given the globalized nature of the digital TaskRabbit economy, there are bound to be serious implications for labor compensation. Rather than wrangling transactions among various fiat currencies, isn’t is more likely the trend will be towards virtualized tokens, essentially scrip? In late August at a meeting of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Mark Carney of the Bank of England proposed the idea of a”synthetic hegemonic currency” along the lines of Facebook’s Libra digital currency to replace the US dollar as a reserve currency.

During his tenure, Carney has been a supporter of using government funds to catalyze impact investing in the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and to mobilize private “social capital.” He’s quoted in this 2017 report on impact markets in the UK, “The Rise of Impact: Report of the UK National Advisory Board on Impact Investing.” The board was launched two decades ago under Gordon Brown and established Big Society Capital, Sir Ronald Cohen’s vehicle for Social Impact Bond development.

Carney Libra Currency

UK Outcomes Lab Carney

UK NAB Impact Investing

And when powerful individuals corner the market on digital labor, compensation, social credit scoring, and access to basic necessities-imagine Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, or Jack Ma? Then they truly become global overlords with the capacity to algorithmically control huge segments of the population, forcing people to comply to draconian behaviorist programs. It’s pretty terrifying to contemplate.

People are conceptualizing how Blockchain contracting and payments could work as seen in the Chinese paper “CrowdBC: A Blockchain-based Decentralized Framework for Crowdsourcing.” Now, they just have to figure out how to scale it.

Blockchain Crowdsourcing

Reputation Management

While Richard Branson, Pierre Omidyar, Bill Gates, and other social entrepreneurs tout digital ID as a way to bring the unbanked into the world economy, what they really mean is they want to be able to tap into the ranks of the global poor to build and maintain “smart” surveillance cities with sweatshop coding work and AI and robotics support. One such program targeting low income people for the digital gig economy is Harvard-educated, Bay Area techie Leila Janah, who set up Samaschool to train low income people to become self-entrepreneurs doing piecework like tagging images to train artificial vision sensors.

SamaschoolLeila Janah Samasource

Automated systems want to be able to tap into a fully flexibilized workforce to get who they want, for the task they need, at the cheapest price, as quickly as possible. They don’t want to pay for workers to live near their factories, which will be located in areas able to be safeguarded against environmental calamity and social unrest. Workers will be forced to live in the flooded or ablaze margins and “commute” via haptic controllers. Oh, and refugees are a growth market for this kind of work, too. See the Dignify platform.

Dignify Microwork

I can’t help but wonder if Bill Clinton had any conception of this when he pushed Congress to support the creation of the World Trade Organization allowing free trade of intellectual property in 1994? Or when Hillary advocated for the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

Now we have officials at the EU talking about an Internet of Humans while the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) sets up working committees framing out fair trade in data sales, global competencies, the harmonization of digital citizens, neurotechnologies for brain machine interfaces, systems of learning engineering, and social impact management systems. With IoT and digital identity, it seems we are on the brink of an era where digital engineering of society at the global level may indeed become a realistic threat, just as Norbert Weiner anticipated all those decades ago.

Below is a timeline with select dates that shows how technology developments intersect with legislative policy, globalized platformed labor, ed-tech, Internet of Things, and impact investing.

I include Clinton’s policy around “Three Strikes” and “Welfare Reform,” because they are relevant to the discussion of “surplus labor,” especially as automation ramps up. Hard policing as well as the soft policing by bureaucrats of the welfare state will be tapped to manage those who are not inclined to comply with the TaskRabbit global mandate. Those who are unemployed or underemployed or incarcerated or under electronic surveillance will become data-generating profit centers for social entrepreneurs. In the algorithmic gig economy many, many people will be targeted for processing by “evidence-based” impact interventions. Their compliance will be enforced through the Internet of Things and digital public “benefits” proffered as  conditional, programmable money.

Timeline Towards A TaskRabbit, Fin-Tech Economy

1992: Marc Tucker’s “Dear Hillary Letter” (Workforce Aligned Education)

1993: NAFTA Signed

1993: European Union Created

1994: Goals 2000 (Financial Incentives for Education Reform)

1994: Improving America’s School Act (ESEA Renewal, Funding Charters 1995)

1994: School To Work Opportunities Act (Career Pathways)

1994: IBM Launches Reinventing Education Campaign

1994: Three Strikes, “Law and Order” Act

1994: Nick Szabo Proposes First “Smart” Contract

1995: Philanthropy Protection Act (Securities Issued By Charities Exempt From Some SEC Regulations)

1995: World Trade Organization Created, Pending GATT Uruguay Round

1995: Big Picture Learning and Citizen Schools Created

1996: Welfare “Reform” Act

1996: E-Rate Program, Digital Connectivity In Schools / Libraries Established

1996: Entertainment and Defense Interests Meet To Discuss Simulation Technology

1996: Tom Vander Ark Creates First Virtual School, Federal Way Outside Seattle

1997: Florida Virtual School Established Statewide

1997: Rosalind Picard Publishes First Book on Affective Computing

1998: Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative Launched, Military e-learning

1999: IMS Global Launched (Standards for E-Learning and Credentials)

1999: Executive Order 13111 Technology Based Training Program

1999: New Profit Created, Social Impact Investing

1999: First Reference to Internet of Things by Kevin Ashton, Procter and Gamble

1999: Institute of Creative Technologies Launched at USC

1999: Euro First Came Into Use

2000: US Military Begins Using Predator Drones

2001: Embedded Everywhere Whitepaper / Gathering on Internet of Things Agenda

2001: SCORM Launches, Software from ADL for Screen-Based E-Learning

2001: Nellie Mae Founded

2001: Chugach Schools Win Baldridge Award for Competency Based Education

2002: First UNESCO Summit on Open Education Resources (OER)

2002: Naviance Launched

2002: First Grants Issued for Longitudinal Databases

2002: No Child Left Behind Becomes Law

2003: Parchment Digital Credentialing Founded

2003: iNACOL Created To Promote Online Learning

2005: Amazon Starts MTurk Microwork Platform

2005: Immersive Education Initiative Begins to Promote Mixed Reality and Gaming

2005: Data Quality Campaign Established

2006: Strive Together Founded And Project of Knowledgeworks

2007: B Lab (Benefit Corporations) Established

2007: First Discussions Around Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN)

2008: Concept of MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) Developed

2008: First Behavioral Ideas Design Lab Created at Harvard, Became Ideas42

2008: USC Institute for Creative Technologies: Conference on Lifelong Learning Companions

2009: Global Impact Investing Network Formally Launched

2009: Common Core State Standards Launched

2009: Race To The Top Introduced Value Added Model VAM

2009: IBM Launches Smarter Cities Campaign

2010: First Social Impact Bond Issued

2010: Open Badges for Lifelong Learning (MacArthur / Mozilla) Whitepaper

2010: National Broadband Plan Promotes Digital Education

2011: Contract for xAPI Issued for E-Learning on Mobile Devices / Wearable Tech

2011: Google Chromebooks Introduced

2011: Class Dojo Behavior Software Launches

2012: Google Glass Tested

2012: Microsoft Domain Awareness System Installed In Lower Manhattan

2012: EverFi Universal Authentication

2013: Results for America Begins Moneyball for Government

2013: Angela Duckworth Starts Characterlab

2013: United Way Gets Families to Waive FERPA Rights at Community Schools

2013: First Iteration of xAPI Released

2013: inBloom Launched

2013: Utah Data Storage Center Built for NSA

2013: Rockefeller Foundation Promotes Resilient Cities Program

2013: Clinton Foundation Backs Digital Badging Program

2013: First Meeting Education Reimagined

2013: Apple Launches iBeacons (Internet of Things)

2014: Altschool Becomes a Benefit Corporation

2014: PERLS “Anywhere” Micro-Learning App Piloted by ADL for Adult Learners

2014: Lumina Foundation Funds Creation of Competency Based Education Network

2014: Yet Analytics Founded

2014: Baltimore Lighthouse 1:1 Device Program Implemented

2014: Obama Creates Promise Zones

2014: Google Cardboard (VR) First Demonstrated

2014: Google Begins Physical Web Project

2014: Workforce Opportunity and Innovation Act Updated (Education Aligned)

2014: NY State Passes Smart Schools Bond Act

2015: Media Buzz Around Private Micro-Schools

2015: Congressional Caucus of Internet of Things

2015: Learning Accelerator / Blended Learning Incubator Started

2015: IBM Investigates Blockchain for Financial Transactions With Central Banks

2015: Pay for Success Program Funded by Arnold Foundation at Urban Institute

2015: Bloomberg Launches “What Works Cities”

2015: MIT Digital Currency Initiative Started

2015: Upwork Freelance Talent Platform

2015: Google Creates Sidewalk Labs for Ubiquitous Urban Computing

2015: Hickenlooper in Colorado Creates Experiential Learning Commission

2015: IBM Promotes Use of Artificial Intelligence in Education at AFT Conference

2015: Every Student Succeeds Act Passes

2015: Council of Chief State School Officers Set Up Career Pathways Program

2015: Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Begins

2015: Charities Aid Foundation, “Giving Unchained” Blockchain Charity Paper

2016: Microsoft Hololens Goes Public

2016: Gamification Begins To Be Used In HR Recruiting / Screening

2016: Institute For the Future Releases “Learning Is Earning” Video

2016: Clever Single Sign-On QR Codes Come Into Use

2016: ID2020 Forum With UN

2016: FCC Authorizes 5G Wireless

2016: Platform for Advanced Wireless Research Systems Established by NSF

2016: Array of Things IoT System Installed in Chicago

2016: Income Sharing Agreements for Tuition Piloted at Purdue

2016: Big Picture Partners With Salesforce on ImBlaze Competency Tracking App

2016: First Congressional Hearing on Evidence Based Policymaking

2016: First Trial of Blockcerts, Blockchain Credentials by MIT

2016: Trans Pacific Partnership Signed (Never Ratified, Defunct)

2017: IMS Global Joins Mozilla Badges

2017: Rhode Island Becomes Personalized Learning State

2017: Center For the Fourth Industrial Revolution Opens at the Presidio

2017: Augmented / Virtual Reality Congressional Caucus Established

2017: The Future Is Gaming, Entertainment Software Association Panel

2017: Alphabet Launches CityBlock IoT for Urban Healthcare

2017: World Bank Summit on Blockchain

2017: Alibaba Joins ALEC

2018: Ridge Lane Merchant Bank for Impact, Public Private Partnerships Launched

2018: Knowledgeworks Whitepaper on AR/VR Wearable Tech in Education

If we don’t contest the tech oligarchs’ vision, the future of work, for all but the upper echelons, is going to be many flavors of grim, dehumanizing, and soul-sucking labor. Let’s not turn over the reigns to Kiwibots, or Blue, or virtual reality simulation commutes. Instead let us support those groups, like Indigenous peoples and the descendants of the enslaved, who have continually resisted settler colonialism and the devastation of capitalism, now holding hands and jumping into the digital realm. Let us find ways to stand with those fighters as allies in their struggle for community, self-determination and grounded normativity. It won’t be easy, but what other choice do we have? Inaction is not a option.

 

Digital curriculum, an answer to equity? An Open Letter to Dr. Ibram X. Kendi

I was prompted to write this after watching the closing keynote address Dr. Ibram X. Kendi gave at UnboundEd’s July 2019 Standards Institute conference. A video of his lecture, “An Argument Between Racist and Anti-Racist Ideas, can be viewed here. Dr. Kendi is a professor of history and international relations at American University. He received the National Book Award for Stamped From the Beginning and considerable acclaim for his new book, How To Be An Anti-Racist.

Kendi Unbounded

UnboundEd is a Brooklyn-based non-profit founded in 2016 that promotes standards-aligned (Common Core) educational content based on EngageNY curriculum modules. The organization hosts two conferences annually, Standards Institutes, that attract over 1,000 educators.

UnboundEd EngageNY

Its primary funders are the Gates Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Carnegie Corporation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The latter has been a primary force advancing Open Educational Resources (OER, mostly digital) and has used its considerable philanthropic assets to catalyze the field of human capital impact investing (more on that here). The Gates Foundation has made $11 million in contributions to UnboundEd since 2015. The address provided for the organization on a 2015 Gates Foundation 990 was a WeWork co-working space located at 81 Prospect Street in Brooklyn.

UnboundEd Gates Grants

Unbounded Gates 2015 Grant

Interactive version of the  map below here.

UnboundEd Learning Funders

Current members of the UnboundEd board include:

Doug Borchard, COO of New Profit, ed-tech and human capital impact investing

Peter Cunningham, ed reform operative with ties to Arne Duncan, founder of Education Post, aka Results in Education Foundation

Jeff Livingston, former derivatives trader turned educational technology salesman who now runs a consulting firm promoting scalable innovation for “at risk” youth

Shaun Neems, career educator in Rochester City Schools, home to Marc Tucker’s National Center on Education and the Economy

Arun Ramanathan, former San Diego Unified School District administrator and “opportunity gap” non-profit director, now CEO of Pivot Learning, a turnaround consulting firm

Judy Wurtzel, former director of the Learning First Alliance with ties to Aspen Insitute, now Executive Director of the Schusterman Family Foundation, a lead investor in Blue Meridian Partners

Jason Zimba, lead writer of the Common Core math standards and close friend of David Coleman

Interactive version of the map below here.

UnboundEd Board

UnboundEd’s founding director, Laura Smith, worked as special assistant to New York City School Chancellor Joel Klein, later joining him at Amplify Education, a data-driven, tablet-based digital learning platform that evolved from News Corp’s (Rupert Murdoch) Wireless Generation.

Smith’s prior association with Amplify is of importance to this conversation, because in May 2019, the Seattle Public Schools adopted Amplify as the district’s new elementary and middle school science curriculum.

The contracting process became highly contentious, after concerns over potential conflicts of interest surfaced. An anonymous donor had covered the fees associated with use of the Amplify curriculum by 20 schools in 2017 without the knowledge of the school board.

Amplify is an online curriculum critics say requires too much screen time, especially for young children. Proponents counter it’s really just a fun, interactive textbook and helps address the digital divide. The latter group framed access to technology based learning as equity issue. As heated discussions continued from spring into summer, it was not uncommon for those who questioned the adoption of Amplify to be told they were racist.

Amplify Equity Seattle

I have to wonder if those advocating for adoption of digital textbooks fully comprehend the amount of data that is captured on the students and how it is used? If it’s an “equity” issue, are we actually talking about equal access to online surveillance? Is that what we want for Black and Brown children? Is that liberation, or is that commodification and control?

A response made by Amplify representatives to a 2014 request for information regarding “pull mechanisms” for “High Impact Learning Technologies” sheds light on the true nature of the technology and the level of monitoring it imposes. The whitepaper submitted to Obama’s Office of Science and Technology Policy states: “At Amplify we believe that education will become a primarily digital endeavor in five years. Devices are becoming less expensive, connectivity investments are increasing, and a generation of educational breakthrough software is in development.”

Amplify High Impact Learning Technologies

As shown above, their submission notes numerous ways digital devices track online activity. That data is then used to evaluate “learning outcomes” and “impact.” The data/outcomes piece is important, because ed-tech has been set up as a conduit for global social impact capital tied to UN Sustainable Development Goal 4, which preferences ICT education.

The Amplify paper specifically mentions interest in using social impact bonds to fund implementation, though they note they have not worked out how to integrate SIBs into the current education finance landscape or “control for implementation in measuring success.”

Amplify Social Impact Bonds

Amplify software captures pages read, time spent on devices at school and at home, “collaboration metrics” mapping student-to-student and student-to-teacher online interactions, parent portal log-ins, and email click throughs. For historically oppressed communities closing the digital divide could very well end up feeling like being put in digital jail.

I’m sure the children feel it and the parents. They know they are being tracked, which is incredibly stressful. What happens once “textbooks” become digital minders? When analytics claim to know students better than they know themselves? When data create unassailable profiles in the cloud that cannot be contested? When one’s pre-k performance determines one’s career pathway?

Does data become destiny?

In the future will offline, human-to-human learning become a fugitive practice?

Is that what “education transformation” in an age of global connectively really means?

Kendi’s keynote draws on personal experience to convey how a Black child’s ability to survive and thrive in a racist society is tied to finding adults and peers who affirm them and let them know they do not need to be “fixed” within a broken system, a system that is broken on purpose to concentrate power in white hands. What challenged him to invest himself in learning and pursue his life’s work wasn’t a compelling Online Education Resource, it was his fourth grade teacher, his high school friend, his school counselor.

Structural racism is not going to be undone with information Black children get from a “personalized” learning playlist. I doubt gamified behavior charts will award badges or token scrip to those intent on upending oppressive systems. Are rigorous standards developed by Ivy League academics tasked with creating revenue streams for their MBA counterparts the answer if they are implemented with fidelity? Will freedom to think outside the boxes imposed by whiteness emerge from a WeWork cubicle situated in the tech corridor of Brooklyn?

If the tech oligarchs and those fronting for them say digital curriculum is the answer to equity and start funding anti-racism rubrics, should we co-sign? Maybe not.

Dear Dr. Kendi,

Acknowledging and beginning to meaningfully address the structural racism upon which the United States was founded is crucial, especially in this 400th year since abducted Africans were first brought to Jamestown and sold as slaves. I am grateful for your writing and the commitment you’ve made to bring this message to audiences across the nation and around the world.

As society advances towards digitized dispossession we have precious little time left to come to terms with our nation’s brutal history. New worlds are being constructed in computer code. Capitalism and settler colonialism have jumped through the screen, sucking us into a netherworld where behaviors can be engineered through gamified nudges. Education transformed into “personalized” feedback loops of corporate content calibrated to reinforce the system’s expectations of you, to “fix” you to whiteness. Hybrid worlds of flickering ones and zeros contained on server-farms, largely controlled by powerful men and the algorithms they deploy.

Their hired guns, the programmers, are tasked with encoding whiteness into the foundations of this shadow world, one where struggles against racism will continue even as social systems are increasingly mediated by AI (artificial intelligence). In a panopticon where devices have evolved to analyze emotion, assess risk, and predict behavior, new strategies of resistance will be required.

I’m taking time to write, because you’ve made a point of saying each of us needs to decide who we are striving to be and act on it. That we must have hope, because losing hope guarantees racism will continue unabated; that while policies are the structural elements that enable racism, individuals can make choices to disrupt the status quo. You’ve also stated that racist attitudes emerge from a place of denial, while anti-racism comes from a place of confession.

Therefore, I will open by sharing that I am a white, middle-aged mom, graying hair, kid just off to college. I grew up in a corporate suburb in the south. I excelled at whiteness, though I didn’t understand it as that at the time. I am a late-blooming activist who initially worked on issues of public education and opting out of standardized testing.

My scope widened to encompass an analysis of institutionalized poverty management and social impact investing as mechanisms of social control (background here). I am endeavoring to reflect on my life choices and how they uphold or disrupt structural racism. I try to disrupt as much as possible, but managing the disease of whiteness requires ongoing attention. My success, admittedly, is inconsistent. I am trying to do better.

Through my activism I’ve developed relationships with people who come from different life experiences than my own, people forced to navigate racism on a daily basis for their survival. Friendship opened my eyes to the machine of structural racism, and I undertook to learn its operations. So, for the past three years, I’ve been untangling the knotty threads of global finance, militarized policing, machine learning, educational technology, digital surveillance, human capital speculation, and risk profiling of vulnerable communities.

I’m pretty good at it. It frightens me that I can so easily get into the headspace of these awful people, piece together clues from whitepapers and LinkedIn profiles, anticipating the next phase of their plan. Maybe that is my gift, or my curse, a curse of whiteness.

The tangled, macabre net of next-gen racial capitalism they have woven poses a dire threat to people I care about, to my fellow Philadelphians. Philadelphia is a city of deep poverty, making it an attractive target for social impact predators. More on that here.

However, it is also a city of Black resistance, of DuBois and Coltrane and MOVE. This gives me hope. I believe the way out of this morass, a direct extension of the Doctrine of Discovery carried out over centuries through land theft, genocide, and enslavement, will come from the combined power of the Black radical tradition and Indigenous sovereignty movements. As I wait for things to coalesce, I try to use my privilege to follow the money, ask questions, and share information.

We know the revolution is not going to be funded. An establishment managerial class will instead proffer superficial interventions, remedies designed to placate while distilling profit from misery. Black children in under-funded schools, unhoused people, chronically ill patients reduced to data and managed as metrics on dashboards while exhortations to secure “equity” and close “gaps” perfunctorily scroll by on power point presentations.

Consultants get paid; data is gathered; people are labeled and managed, but things rarely get better, which is exactly how those in power want it. This is part of the assimilationist strategy you lay out so clearly in the opening of Stamped From The Beginning. Data-driven “equity,” a false sense of “progress” that allows systems of racism to continue unimpeded.

With resistance, the machine evolves. In schools end-of-year tests are replaced with 1:1 devices, benchmark assessments, and data analytics demonstrating the amount of time students spend “on task.” In the end they still intend for Black and Brown kids to be put on pathways to the gig economy, or the military, or prison. Tech and finance interests, intent on turning public education into a global market, continually refine new ways of selling hardware, software, cloud storage, data, and futures-children’s futures.

In such an environment, racism can become automated under the false pretense that the data are neutral, that turning schools into data factories is ok. Digital feedback loops promise improved outcomes if programs are implemented “with fidelity,” but that processing is incredibly dehumanizing. There are few people in the “personalization” products blended learning peddlers sell; it’s mostly algorithms and profiling and surveillance.

As you have noted, it’s not that those in power don’t know better. They know exactly what they are doing. Racism is systemic. It is a power structure that we must either accept or resist. Policies of violence were encoded into the founding documents of the United States. Dr. Tim Scott notes in his analysis The Duplicitous US Constitution, “…the white supremacist and patriarchal ideologies of the wealthy, slave-owning Christian men who founded the nation were fused with free market ideology, the engine for the emerging interests of industrial capitalism.”

And now they are coming at us with a Fourth Industrial Revolution of automated labor where people are dying of trauma and self-medication, where telecom and tech giants have teamed up with the state to watch us through our doorbells or digital assistants or “smart” home conveniences-for those who still have homes. Our schools are filled with Orwell’s telescreens; only they come on laptop carts, having been sold to us as liberation, a way to close the digital divide. The oligarchs have thirty-year plans, and we are always behind, in crisis mode, reactive.

Those in power want oppressed communities to resign themselves to living their lives as a high-stakes game in which they are tracked in real time on leaderboards, where they must unlock rights and privileges through good behavior, and fin-tech makes all the rules. But we don’t have to go along. We can question. We can dialogue. People can build something outside institutionalized power’s framework of false accountability.

We must, however, be able to have authentic, frank conversations about our nation’s racist history, and we must not allow those in power to camouflage their nefarious plans with a veneer of anti-racism. That sows confusion when what we most need is clarity. The powerful, especially the tech oligarchs, must not be allowed to control the conversation or set the terms of engagement.

Gates Foundation SEL Competencies

Bill Gates is extremely interested in evaluating the social emotional competencies (SEL) of children, Mark Zuckerberg and the Bechtel Foundation, too (defense contracting and toxic FEMA trailers). As the world falls apart, “character education” has become a key concern of the corporate-state. That’s what is driving Council for a Strong America, a vehicle for impact investors designed to groom children to conform to the expectations of the military, police, workforce boards, evangelical religious groups, and athletics. Those in power need to keep the lid on lest things begin to boil over.

Council for A Strong America

Controlling mindset is important, and profitable with the Heckman equation in full swing. Now with advancements in digital technologies, neuroscience, and brain training these apparently mad scientists seem pretty confident they’re going to be able to do it (check out Jonathan Moreno’s book Mind Wars). Children have been set up as lab rats to test executive function video games, building new markets in digital pharmaceuticals, leveraging public funds to fuel private profit taking. More here.

Akili Time To Play.jpg

They must know people would totally rebel if they were to admit this straight up; so instead, the powers that be will probably lead with SEL competencies that are hard to push back on. If I had had to guess (and my record is pretty good) I imagine anti-racism could easily be shortlisted as a desirable pilot SEL competency. Very hard to question, because most educators would be wary of putting themselves in a position where they might be called out as a racist.

So let’s let this scenario play out. Imagine Gates and his collaborators have underwritten the development of anti-racism standards along with attendant rubrics and assessments and data collection schemes. It’s not unthinkable, a perfect way to establish boundaries that allow a certain amount of social justice activism, but not too much. As long as people play by the establishment rules, nothing is going tip the apple cart. Those who participate in the endorsed program get to be part of the club, the good guys, deputized to police those not inclined to go along with the pre-authorized, standards-aligned “solution.”

VR Empathy Machine

These imagined SEL assessments could even employ empathy-invoking virtual reality scenarios with biometric data capture-you can get a lot of physical, emotional, and behavioral data via haptic systems. These anti-racism interventions would be a great candidate for pay for success finance. Paid behavior change! Would we be ok with that? I’m sure the gaming and entertainment industries would welcome such an approach.

Would such systems be used to ameliorate power asymmetries or entrench them?

Whose interests would ultimately be served?

Is digital programming a short cut to the elimination of racism?

Or, more likely, a means to commodify and constrain the real human work needed to enact permanent change.

Does anyone believe Gates and the many backers of CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning) would cede power, support grassroots organizing, and redistribute resources to eliminate structural racism?

Hmm… it is far more likely the financiers, foundations, and non-profits intend to incorporate anti-racism training into burgeoning portfolios of “impactful” solutions for the purposes of speculative human capital investment, allowing hedge funds to gamble on behavioral “growth” and ensuring people remain monitored and isolated. See my writings on the Heckman Equation and his work with Angela Duckworth that veers eerily into eugenics territory. When the SEL rubrics come along there will probably be ones for grit and resilience, too, racist bootstrap constructs that they are.

SEL engineering through digital technologies is not being developed out of ignorance. People know full well the intent of this larger program-social reproduction, meritocracy, and compliance. The reality of anti-racism SEL standards is on the horizon; technologically feasible, though not quite yet socially acceptable.

So the question is if/when they arrive will we buy into it?

Will we agree that the answer is plugging into top-down standards, following the script, and stifling our humanity for fear of doing it wrong? Or will we disconnect and refuse standardized SEL metrics as we have done with end of year standardized testing?

Will we refuse to upload data about the mental states of our children, about their behaviors?

Will we set ourselves to the challenging, messy, face-to-face work required to undo centuries of toxic American myth making?

Will we commit to holding one another accountable, outside pre-approved “evidence-based” solutions?

Where will we find support outside the NGO construct, which is by its very nature, is held hostage to their funders’ agendas?

Because the work has to be done; the path out of technocracy demands we nurture anti-racist activity beyond the clutches of Gates, Zuckerberg, and Bechtel.

We have to figure it out.

In a recent talk you related a childhood experience, where you were punished for speaking up against an injustice at school. Your mother told you she wouldn’t discourage you from protesting, but you had to be prepared to accept the consequences. Some have expressed to me that white people should not participate in conversations about racism; that it is our place to listen. Yet, I feel in some things I cannot remain silent, because silence means withholding information that could fundamentally reframe the conversation, the tactics, and the nature of struggle.

Thus, I hope you will take this post in the spirit in which it was intended, an open dialogue that provides information affected communities might use to inform strategies of resistance.

I hope you will think of Mrs. Miles. Imagine her in a public school classroom today, perhaps a school targeted for “turnaround.” Based on how you described her, I imagine she would probably recognize the digital disconnection and profiling being ushered in by chromebooks. She would see that as a threat to her professional training  and a threat to the children in her care. I hope lots more people can tap into their inner Mrs. Miles, speak out at school board meetings, and pursue policies of non-cooperation.

You raised this question in your talk, “How will historians write about this time?” Well, this is a time in which incredibly powerful people are building an “Internet of Humans” to be run by AI (artificial intelligence) and monitored by Internet of Things sensors. It is an era of biocapitalism, racial capitalism. While some may believe automation and robotic or avatar learning companions could offer some measure of protection to Black children from structural racism, I personally believe it is codifying whiteness. I don’t know how historians will write this, but I am doing my best to raise questions and provoke conversation. I would very much welcome your thoughts in response.

Sincerely,

Alison McDowell

Mapper of Money and Power

Question Asker

Wrench

These screen shots are of select grants given to UnboundEd over the past three years.

HP Unbounded Learning 2019

UnboundEd Chan Zuckerberg

Unbounded Learning Bloomberg 2015

Unbounded Carnegie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Casey, Aspen, United Way & The Two-Generation Con

In a previous post, When We’re The Packages, I discussed the role the Annie E. Casey Foundation (UPS $) played in developing the field of human capital impact investing. One infrastructure element developed and promoted by the foundation is data collection across multiple-generations. Their two-generation approach expands opportunities to profit from impoverished families, because the impact of “evidence-based solutions” can be calculated for both parent AND child.

With Pay For Success: More Data = More “Impact” = More ROI (Return On Investment)

The Aspen Institute’s Ascend 2Gen Initiative ran with the Casey Foundation’s “two generation” concept, turning it into a tool kit that has since been taken up by the National Conference of State Legislators. Ascend is one of many initiatives operating under the umbrella of the Aspen Institute, which is pursuing efforts in the areas of social impact “philanthropy,” community “solutions,” up-skilling and the “future of work,” social emotional learning in children, and a NextGen Network program exploring “ethical” artificial intelligence, underwritten by none other than Microsoft. Take a minute to scroll through the network members; there are SO many.

Aspen Next Gen Network

ALICE Ascend

Interactive version of map above here.

Few realize there is currently a push to use machine learning on data collected through social welfare systems, though they’ve been discussing it for at least a decade. In 2010, Harvard hosted a symposium, co-sponsored with Accenture (co-creator with Microsoft the ID2020 digital identity system), on what the next generation of human services would look like – essentially, what the “business model” was going to be. The conditions laid out presumed continued austerity, increased demand and severity of need, and rising costs. There was considerable discussion about the use of technology and how to apply it to the human services’ “value curve.”

Harvard Human Services

Source here.

Page twenty-seven of the report (above) states that moving forward, predictive analytics “will become a core competency of human services systems.” It then goes on to describe the use of sensor technology in systems of policing and family profiling that were underway in New York and Illinois at that time. There was no discussion regarding the ethics of profiling the poor, nor the certainty that racism would become embedded in these systems, further exacerbating oppressive aspects of whiteness. Those trapped within automated social service systems will have even less opportunity to contest their situation once algorithmic authorities have decamped to the cloud, well beyond human reach.

What Works Centre Machine Learning AI

This February, the What Works Centre, based in the UK, put out a call for partners interested in developing predictive analytics for child protective services. As people are increasingly tethered to devices that force compliance, and public services are cut to the bone or outsourced, it isn’t a stretch to imagine the “what works” approach will be weaponized to keep poor parents and children in their place while enriching elite investors in “evidence-based” programs. Meanwhile, the tech and telecommunications sectors benefit, as the ALICEs (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed people) furiously feed data into cloud-based systems in an attempt to survive and keep their families together.

2Gen Aspen Institute CAP Tulsa

Community Action Project of Tulsa (CAP Tulsa) is one example of an “anti-poverty” program that advances the two-generation approach. It combines workforce training in healthcare, a program called CareerAdvance, for parents with “evidence-based” Head Start programs for their children. P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, founding director of the Two-Generation Research Initiative at Northwestern University, and her colleagues began research into this effort in 2008 and published an impact analysis for CAP Tulsa in February of 2019.

CAP Tulsa

Interactive map of CAP Tulsa here.

This video about the program specifically mentions the Heckman equation and the 7-13% return on investment in early childhood interventions at timestamp 4 minutes and 15 seconds. Let me make this perfectly clear: while such programs are portrayed as benevolent, they have been developed first and foremost to channel global investment capital so as to generate guaranteed rates of return for financiers at the expense of the masses. As such, these “evidence-based” interventions will NEVER eliminate poverty, because its continued existence is a precondition for the proper functioning of social impact profit-taking enterprise.

2Gen Tulsa Heckman

CAP Tulsa Heckman 2Gen 2

2Gen Tulsa Heckman 3

CAP Tulsa Heckman 2Gen 5

CAP Tulsa Heckman 2Gen 6

One of the key funders of CAP Tulsa is the George Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser made his fortune in petroleum and held prominent positions with the Bank of Oklahoma and the Tulsa Community Foundation. His family foundation has $50 million invested in Stanley Druckenmiller’s Blue Meridian Partners and previously had assets in the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation’s True North Fund (more here on Druckenmiller). Interactive map of Blue Meridian Partners can be accessed here.

Blue Meridian

Kaiser has been in on the ground floor with early childhood impact investing from the beginning, maintaining close ties to Robert Dugger, Sara Watson, and the Partnership for America’s Economic Success (later ReadyNation) as they laid the rails for human capital speculation, starting with home visit and pre-k data and extending into workforce development / up-skilling via digital credential acquisition.

He’s invested in Educare initiatives in Santa Clara County, CA and Tulsa, OK, as well as in the Alliance for Early Success and the First Five Years Fund. Educare is part of the University of Chicago and Diana Rauner’s Ounce of Prevention Fund’s charter-affiliated Birth to College continuum that promotes data collection through intrusive systems like Teaching Strategies Gold (TS Gold).

Partnership for America's Success Kaiser

I want to mention two other co-authors on the CAP Tulsa impact analysis. In addition to P. Linsday Chase-Lansdale, there was also Christopher King, a research scientist and economist at UT Austin who for many years directed the Ray Marshall Institute for Human Resources where extensive research into welfare “reform” was conducted.

Hirokazu Yoshikawa, an NYU professor of globalization and education who served as an advisor on Head Start in the Clinton and Obama administrations, was also on the CAP Tulsa impact assessment team. Yoshikawa, notably, led the framing out of the UN Sustainable Development Goals for early childhood and served on the board of George Soros’s (INET) Open Society Foundation.

Hirokazu Yoshikawa Head Start

The United Way is pursuing its own Two-Generation “collective impact” agenda in coordination with the Strive Network, which I wrote about here. Strive has ties to Microsoft through Connie and Steve Ballmer, Ballmer Group, and Blue Meridian. Many of their investments are in outcomes-based, social service software programs, including data dashboard systems like Social Solutions’ “Efforts to Outcomes” shown below. Even in communities without a Strive presence, social impact infrastructure is being rapidly deployed to control and manage poor families.

PhillyBoost ETO

Other systems like ClientTrack (below) triage those needing services, using data and predictive analytics to determine how likely a “Housing First” intervention is to yield a measurable “impact.” This strategy is outlined in a 2018 Harvard study, “The Massachusetts PFS Story: Social Innovation Financing As A Catalyst for Change.” It is interesting to note that Eccovia Solutions, the parent company of ClientTrack, describes itself as offering whole-person tracking ranging from prisoner re-entry to refugee resettlement to behavioral health and chronic illness management; all of which, not coincidentally, are ripe for pay for success contracting. The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Supportive Housing signed a contract to use ClientTrack for its Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) in 2016. The company is based in Salt Lake City, home of one of the nation’s first social impact bonds and stomping grounds for leading players in human capital impact investing market including Jim Sorenson, who finances a social impact research center at the University of Utah business school, and Goldman Sachs.

Clienttrack Pay for Success

Source, page 374.

An example of a two-generation data-collection program managed through the United Way is Great Families 2020 which operates in Marion County, IN. This county is home to Indianapolis, a hotbed of education privatization and home to the Lumina Foundation (workforce readiness and digital credentials), the Eli Lilly Endowment (major US philanthropy with ties to the pharmaceutical industry that makes grants to faith-based institutions), and EdChoice (Milton Friedman’s school choice think tank). Indiana is taking steps toward competency-based education, pre-k for all, and pay for success finance. The county is also home to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, which houses a new state data-hub managed through the Polis Center.

Great Families 2020

Interactive map of Great Families 2020 here.

The Social Innovation Fund of the Corporation for National and Community Service provided seed funding to launch the United Way of Central Indiana’s data integration plan, one that will create a conducive environment for future Pay for Success deals. That effort is being coordinated with the Management Performance Hub / Indiana Data Partnership sponsored by the Eli Lilly Endowment, which also backed Marc Tucker’s (Dear Hillary Letter) National Center for Education and the Economy; the Collective Impact Forum, an accelerator for impact investing; and “Partnership for Early Learners,” to the tune of $20 million in 2014 which was meant to establish statewide standards around pre-k and early childhood education workforce quality indicators.

United Way Central Indiana Great Families 2020 Two Generation

Source here.

Thus, in the name of “transparency,” “improved” outcomes, and “leveraged data,” sophisticated predictive models will be run across data from Indiana’s health, education, security, economic, and transportation sectors. LISC, the Ford Foundation’s community redevelopment program, is also in on the game. It seems the intent is to “redevelop” communities that have been systematically undermined through redlining, environmental racism, over-policing, and economic disinvestment and turn them into digitally engineered laboratories where those who are not pushed out become human game pieces, pressured to navigate a techno-panopticon of social welfare mandates. Every aspect of a person’s life and social relations will be optimized for social control, efficiency and profit for social impact investors.

Indiana Data Partnership

Interactive map of Indiana Data Partnership here.

A “data-driven” “two-generation” approach to maternal and child care may seem sensible until you realize its backers only intend to pursue interventions deemed “measurable,” “scalable,” and value-oriented. Large segments of the population, mostly Black and Brown people, will be deemed disposable by financiers, of use only insofar as they yield actionable data for the human capital “game.” The “solutions” proffered will be tech-centric, since digital platforms facilitate deal evaluation.

Picture what’s happened with data-driven, online education and apply those terrible outcomes to healthcare, counseling, workforce training, and supportive housing. It will expand the perpetual underclass and create another class of de-professionalized facilitators (educators, health care providers, therapists, and social workers) who are pressured to carry out toxic “evidence-based” ministrations, even when doing so goes against everything they know is right and just. This two-generation strategy will be soul-killing for two ALICE generations and the workers charged with carrying out these schemes against them.

 

Moneyball For Government: Poverty Mining in Philadelphia

We finally got a new computer with enough memory for me to be able to edit the talk I gave at Wooden Shoe Books on May 9, 2019. It’s two hours long and covers quite a bit of ground. We had a couple dozen folks attend in person and many wanted to stay after and continue talking; so I count that a win.

Below is the talk. Click here for the slide share if you want to look at it separately.

For context, the week before this event hundreds of impact investors arrived in Philadelphia to discuss how to best capitalize on (read profit from) our city’s deep poverty. A couple of us affiliated with the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC) staged an informational picket outside the Duane Morris Building where the “Total Impact 2019 Conference” was held. We leafleted, let passersby know what was happening inside, and even engaged a number of speakers. They are not willing to see horrific techno-dystopic machine they are building for what it truly is. Below is a video from that action.

A sidewalk display featuring many of the speakers was made with help from comrades with #OccupyPHA (PHA = Philadelphia Housing Authority). PHA is one of the leading gentrifiers in the city, particularly North Philadelphia, where they’ve built a new $45 million headquarters. The week after the event a small civil protest was staged in the street outside the headquarters, and a front end loader was sent to run us over.

The stakes are high, people. The stakes are very high.

#OccupyPHA is still out there as of mid July; 90+ days.

Wooden Shoe Flyer

Hewlett Packard And The Pitfalls Of “Deeper Learning” In An Internet Of Things World

It was time to say good-bye to the chinstrap penguin. The paper mache model had kept watch over a corner of my sewing room for years, but with our child moving on to college and evidence of flour-beetles impossible to ignore, its time had come. It was an endearing second-grade project, now a decade old. It was the kind of project many of us remember; you know, the ones that start out scrambling around the back of a closet in search of a shoebox? Today, hands-on, creative projects have largely been cast aside in favor of online learning modules that tout their test score-boosting efficacy. There were many thoughts running through my head as I placed the bug-eaten model into the trash that day.

A day or so later, I happened to read a CommonWealth article in which Jeff Riley, education commissioner of Massachusetts, laid out a “radical center” vision for public education outlined in the report “Our Way Forward: For Massachusetts K12 Public Education.” The media outlet, a mouthpiece for privatization interests, framed the piece to appeal to teachers and parents beleaguered by decades of harmful ed-reform policies. There was talk of an unhealthy fixation on test scores, the need for a rich curriculum, and incentivizing teachers to create “innovative” lessons. I sensed a trap, and that trap was “deeper learning” and “project-based learning.”

In the article Riley also spoke of expanding assessments beyond English and math and of new “performance tasks.” His proposal touted adoption of “smart” technology, flexible career pathways, and perhaps most troubling, tracking and measuring “skills and dispositions” for future employers. The need for increased public funding was downplayed, though the possibility of outside grants was raised. No surprise there. The commissioner tipped his hand in the closing paragraph, though, when he shared his desire for education in Massachusetts to be more like Netflix than Blockbuster.

Riley’s proposal called for four things: deeper learning, evidence-based practice, holistic supports (wrap around services), and partnerships. Many will recognize items two through four as infrastructure for speculative investment in human capital, but the first item, deeper learning, requires elaboration.

Alliance for Excellent Education Deeper Learning Network Map

If you didn’t know better, you might be inclined to believe adoption of “deeper learning” strategies would be a good thing. It sounds like it might include fun projects and social interaction and experiential learning. But don’t be fooled, we’re not circling back to the days of paper mache penguins. Deeper learning isn’t just a throw away phrase, it is a specific educational tactic rolled out by Hewlett Packard a decade ago and intended advance corporate interests while profiling students.

In a 2016 blog post “Building The Deeper Learning Field Grant By Grant,” Phil Gonring of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation details how the company deployed hundreds of strategic grants starting in 2010 to remake education so that it could be digitally engineered and tied to human capital impact investing. Key partners included Stanford University, the National Association of State Boards of Education, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Alliance for Excellent Education (philanthropic sibling to the Schott Foundation), charter franchises like EL and Envision Education and “innovative” project-based innovative learning programs like High Tech High and Big Picture Learning.

HP Deeper Learning Grant Strategy

Riley’s proposal for Massachusetts schools cited Sarah Fine’s work on deeper learning. Fine, a Harvard-educated researcher, is employed by the High Tech High Graduate School of Education in San Diego. High Tech High is among the high-profile “innovative” project-based learning schools promoted by venture capitalists like Ted Dintersmith. The graduate school hosts an HP-funded “deeper learning hub.” The graduate program is embedded in the high school, which was funded with a $9.3 million start-up grant from the Gates Foundation in 2000. CA. San Diego is a smart city and also a Collective Shift (MacArthur Foundation) funded City of LRNG (anytime / anywhere learning) that is piloting career pathways and digital badges.

Hewlett Packard has been involved in “evidence-based” human capital investing via the True North Fund. The company was also a member of Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), led by Ken Kay, who you may remember teamed up with Dintersmith and Knowlegeworks on the North Dakota state education takeover. This partnership promoted skills-based education aligned to corporate interests.

HP also funds School Retool, a professional development effort advocating tech “hacks” and “deeper learning” for school leaders in such far flung locations as Dallas, Pittsburgh, Oakland, Oregon, Idaho, and New Hampshire. In the early to mid 1990s Kay led the Computer Systems Policy Project, an organization that lobbied on behalf of the most powerful tech interests in the country. He now manages EdLeader21, which is sponsored by Battelle (defense contractor) for Kids. Evidently the next generation’s “deeper learning” skills are being aligned with the interests of a high-tech war machine.

HP Deeper Learning

Interactive version of above map here.

Ken Kay

EdLeader21 Battelle

Battelle

At the same time, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation pursued a parallel strategy to remake the non-profit and philanthropic sectors for impact investing. See my previous piece here.

HP Reengineering Philanthropy

Interactive version of map above here.

Hewlett Packard is an expert in human capital profiling. In 2013 they developed a “flight risk” scoring algorithm to assess the likelihood valuable employees would leave their company (and conversely who was not worth retaining). They are developing HR gamification for behavior change and teamed up with Yet Analytics to create, EIDCC and artificial intelligence “brain” they say can calculate the rate of return on investments in digital education and other social expenditures.

HP Human Capital Management

Interactive version of map above here.

EIDCC

Source for above.

Gamification HP Chart

Source here.

Data is the new oil, and classrooms are key points of extraction. Social-emotional data is prized, because it can be manipulated for impact investing and human capital management purposes. Listen to a short clip from a Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Group presentation on social-emotional learning by an executive from Otus in which he describes future possibilities for wearable tech data capture.

We know there is intense interest in capturing data on a person’s “Big Five” “OCEAN” traits: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (see featured image). Project-based learning is a great way to obtain this data, especially with group projects where team interactions can be tracked with increasingly sophisticated sensors. Not surprisingly HP’s spin off, HP Enterprise, is doing work in IoT, Blockchain, and sensor based technologies, all of which can be used to aggregate data related to people’s interactions with augmented reality, “smart” environments.

HPE IoT

Interactive of map above here.

Open Education Resources (OER) are a part of education’s augmented reality world. Value can be created if one can track how person interacts with educational materials, whether text, video, game, or simulation. Meta-data can be used to profile users and content. Demonstrations of competency via OER have been linked to issuance of digital badges for informal learning. Interactions happen via xAPI and SCORM protocols, which were developed by Rustici Software for the Defense Department’s Advanced Distributed Learning program. Considerable research into digital training and intelligent tutoring systems has been undertaken in training US military personnel. The goal of Executive Order 13111, signed by Bill Clinton in 2000, was to leverage developments in defense training and use them to engineer the learning of civilians, too.

HP Education

Interactive version of map above here.

ADL : IoT Education

Interactive version of map above here.

OERs are being pitched as digital text books in higher education, a seemingly useful solution to the problem of cost-prohibitive print books, but the plan is for material to be unbundled and served up by algorithms via personalized, curated playlists. That awful Knewton Datapalooza video? Yup, those learning pathways are comprised of OER. In K12 education OER are central to the delivery of blended learning activities and provide curriculum for cyber schools.

Knewton OER

Knewtown OER 2

Education is being aligned to workforce demands, as stable employment opportunities shrink. Profiling is being used from early ages to put children on ridiculous career pathways to jobs that may not exist ten years from now. These pathway alignments will reinforce existing power imbalances and structural racism. Far from being a chance to experiment with other ways of learning, “deeper learning” projects will be used to prop-up predatory work-based initiatives that legitimize child labor while at the same time dictating whose capital merits investment and who is disposable. While the branding for “deeper learning” makes it sound progressive, in execution it’s actually extremely repressive.

We’ve crossed over into the realm surveillance education where screens, wearable tech, QR codes, beacons, and Internet of Things sensors are starting to give classrooms the feel of Winston’s apartment from 1984. The era of the non-digital, disconnected, wheat paste penguin seems to have passed. Now we are seeing things like the image below, an IoT enabled puppet designed to teach science to elementary school students. It includes embedded sensors to track the child’s physical location in the room.

IoT Bee

Supposedly these puppets gather data on how effectively instruction is delivered on how bees pollinate flowers. This technology was developed with National Science Foundation funding at the Center for Learning Research and Technology at Indiana University Bloomington whose projects include: iSTEP (Science Through Technology Enhanced Play) and PLAE (Promoting Learning Through Annotation of Embodiment). Researchers are using software called OpenPTrack, developed with the UCLA’s REMAP, Center for Research in Engineering, Media and Performance, that tracks social interactions in augmented reality settings.

We need to understand that creativity and play and hands-on learning and projects are being harnessed to predatory systems of data extraction that will push children’s lives onto digital platforms. The puppets and games featured in these videos (viewable here) are intended to normalize a violent act of digitizing the lives of children without their consent.

Step Bees My sense is that when people hear the term “deeper learning,” they presume it means learners will have time and support to delve into subject areas; that they will be able to learn deeply about a given topic. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

I believe what “deeper learning” is actually about is using digital platforms and IoT to better analyze LEARNERs as human capital. It is more about them learning US and categorizing US than it is about empowering students to learn about the world.

It is about risk scoring people as human capital.

It is for financial speculation and social control.

I’m going to miss that penguin.

I’m ready to fight for the return of “shoebox” projects.

I’m ready to fight IoT in classrooms.

#EducationForLiberation #SmashTheTelescreens

 

 

 

Pay for Success Finance Preys Upon The Poor: Presentation at Left Forum 6/29/19

I have the exciting opportunity to participate in a panel discussion with members of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign at the Left Forum Conference coming up this weekend June 28-30 in Brooklyn, New York at Long Island University. The focus of our two-hour workshop will be building a Poor People’s Army. Here is a link with more information about our session. Would love to see you there!

Poor People's Army Left Forum

My role on the panel is to introduce pay for success finance and how it will prey upon the poor. This understanding is crucial as we develop new ways of organizing outside the non-profit industrial complex, which is largely underwritten by vulture-philanthropy. This opportunity was the perfect chance for me to attempt to distill three years of research into an eight-minute introduction. I like to work collaboratively and want to express appreciation to those who engaged with me on this topic over the past couple of weeks in social media, phone, and email. This piece is much better and tighter for all of your insight and input. So thanks Mary, Roxana, Matt, Nick, Tim, Susan, Tonya, Carolyn, Maggie, Sara, Brian, Cynthia, Charlotte, Asantewaa, Sue, Lea, Sheila, Peter, Catherine, Barbara, and Belinda. What follows is a slightly longer version than I will present at the panel, but since blogs don’t have space limitations, I wanted to share the final version in full. I plan to share the images at the end as workshop handouts.

How Pay For Success Finance Will Prey Upon The Poor

One of the biggest things we’re up against, and something few people are talking about, is social impact investing and pay for success finance. Within the hollowed out shell of the welfare state, which admittedly was always inadequate and used for purposes of racialized social control, global finance has built a new machine that will use predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, and wearable and screen-based technologies to monitor the global poor and profit from their misery.

This effort is being carried out in partnership with the non-profit sector, higher education, think tanks, and global foundations. Many involved identify as liberal, even progressive. Successful resistance will require stopping Trump, the Koch brothers, and ALEC, as well as a corporate, militarized Blue Wave that has every intention of stabilizing late-stage capitalism with technocratic “evidence-based” solutions. Make no mistake; this is a fully bipartisan enterprise.

Outcomes-based contracts are this machine’s operating system. Contracts employ pay-for-performance agreements that reimburse service providers IF they produce specified success metrics. These metrics are narrowly defined and chosen for their ability to be gamed. Contrived solutions offer up fake “success” to enrich investors at the expense of vulnerable populations. Think standardized test scores as success metrics for education or fit-bit step counts for preventative health.

This machine requires a steady supply of people labeled deficient by those in power. Like batteries in the Matrix, the poor are meant to be the fuel. The machine does not care for their actual wellbeing; its sole purpose is to maximize profit. In that it is similar to the capitalist Western medical model where Big Pharma opts for chronic disease management over research leading to cures. Pay for success will not empower the poor, but instead manage them and harvest their data, indefinitely.

The infrastructure for this system was put in place in the years leading up to the financial crisis of 2008. After toxic mortgages imploded, financiers needed another way to keep global capital circulating. It had to be even bigger than real estate debt, since global wealth continues to become more and more concentrated. The next BIG target would be financialized public benefit systems. Through financialization, resources are siphoned from the real economy into the financial sector where demands for short-term profit lead to instability, overwhelming debt, income inequality, and wage stagnation.

To justify this shift, proponents of pay for success insist governments will never have sufficient resources to care for their people. Services MUST be outsourced. This in turn opens up vast global markets for speculative investment in human capital. The big money isn’t to be had running human services, which are admittedly hard to turn a profit on, but rather in the trade of debt associated with providing those services. Such a development isn’t surprising, given the power finance and technology interests like Alphabet and Goldman Sachs, hold over elected officials. Governments have been captured, and as hostages of transnational capital, they’re compelled to go along with this brutal scheme.

After its fin-tech makeover, the new welfare state will essentially function as a maze into which poor people are forced by social work navigators. Technologies will track, predict, and influence behavior. The digital dust the poor generate as they attempt to negotiate punitive bureaucracies will flow to social sector dashboards, informing hedge fund bets in real time. With their varied portfolios of trauma, vulnerable populations will replace real estate in the lead up to the next Big Short.

Investors don’t put money in markets they expect to dry up. Thus logic dictates turning poverty into a global investment market will only increase poverty. Social impact markets require an ever-expanding supply of people deemed cheaply fixable according to the terms investors set. The fixes offered aren’t meant to materially improve lives long term. That would require redistribution of resources, something unthinkable for the likes of Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg. While poverty may be reduced somewhat, it is an essential feature of the design. For pay for success to thrive, homelessness, addiction, mental illness, hunger, violence, unemployment, broken families, and uncertainty must remain the norm. Hedge funds hate stability, and they’re the ones driving social impact investing. If everyone had enough to live a stable life, the gambling would have to come to an end.

Vulture philanthropies seeded this market. After many grant cycles the non-profit sector has been conditioned to impose toxic solutions without question, collecting the data needed to justify venture capital’s profit taking. Having been integrated into the machine, these partners in crime are tasked with managing populations that black box algorithms have identified as “at risk.” These artificial labels will, of course, be disproportionately applied to Black and Brown communities. The system demands broken people. Broken people are the raw material. As a result, the system is incentivized to manufacture data and create as many broken people as hedge funds require to keep global capital in optimal circulation.

Social sector workers are also part of the human capital pipeline, caught in this web along with the poor. The system intends to extract as much data and impose as much surveillance as it possibly can, which is why those administering harmful solutions must get creative in identifying others with whom they can organize. This shift will be catastrophic for educators, healthcare providers, therapists, and social workers across the globe. Effective resistance will need to unite people across diverse workplaces.

The United Way is a partner in these efforts as is Strive Together out of Ohio. They’ve identified a permanent underclass for “collective impact” processing called ALICE: Assets Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. These are the households of the working poor: children with unstable housing, indebted college graduates, workers living paycheck to paycheck, patients with chronic illness, disabled veterans, the elderly. Pay for success “solutions” will process them as commodities via ed-tech, tele-health, tele-therapy, and “smart” housing.

Soon large segments of the population will find their life choices subject to digital engineering, forced onto prescriptive pathways, jumping through hoops into which structural racism has been embedded in computer code. Smart phones will play a major role as benefits are moved to online platforms and linked to digital identity. It is the phones with their biometric capacity that facilitate transfers of value and data and enable tracking and analysis of impact. Phones will be the minders of the poor. Those with phones can have no expectation of privacy.

Such systems are being piloted on unhoused people in Austin now with backing from Bloomberg Philanthropies, a major impact investor. The state of Illinois also has a working group setting up Blockchain birth certificates and is looking to digitize SNAP benefits so coded nudges can be used to push “good” food choices. As the poor have their welfare inputs evaluated against their economic and behavioral outputs, the rich will sit on the sidelines placing bets. Either way the rich win, because there’s always someone willing to take the short position.

Beyond financialization of human life, these data-driven systems also legitimize increased surveillance of large segments of the population, especially Black and Brown communities already subject to militarized policing. Resisters will be viewed as insurgents and subject to violent counter insurgent interventions as we saw in Ferguson and at Standing Rock. Wearable and screen based technologies and interoperable data systems, like Project Unicorn headquartered a few blocks from here, will feed a vast network of signals intelligence to monitor the behavior of the poor, predicting the likelihood of push back. The Minerva Research Initiative was set up by DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) for exactly this purpose. It’s not hard to imagine the impact such intelligence will have on resistance movements.

So, what does social impact digital surveillance look like?

It looks like behavior tracking apps for low-income mothers.

It looks like play tables that video record toddlers and score their social behaviors.

It looks like online preschool.

It looks like brain wave monitoring headbands and executive function enhancing video games for students.

It looks like wearable tech that tracks vital signs for substance users.

It looks like online cognitive behavioral therapy for prisoners.

It looks like fit bits and Internet of Things pill caps for Medicaid patients.

It looks like “smart” supportive housing with integrated IoT monitoring.

It looks like tablet-based overseas monitoring of seniors.

It looks like virtual reality death simulation training for hospice workers.

Once you peek under the hood, you realize what a grotesque business social impact investing actually is. These tools are built on 400 years of racial capitalism. It is the Doctrine of Discovery with Blockchain replacing double-entry bookkeeping and smart phones and digital identity systems replacing shackles. It is a system that arose in tandem with cloud-based computing, broadband, 5G and the Internet of Things. These advancements are inextricably inked to the interests of the US military and intelligence community, which is why we must recognize that as much as we have come to rely on our devices, true liberation will never come through digital channels. It can’t; our opponents run the cloud.

We’re living through a period of orchestrated mass confusion and distraction. Some are sitting like frogs in simmering pots, distracted on their phones as the steam billows around them. Others are forced to play real-life games of Frogger, heads down, crossing dangerous highways, dodging crises right and left with little opportunity to see, let along plan for, what is coming.

South Africa and Australia have piloted public benefits on Blockchain linked to digital identity. The state of Illinois is looking into it as well. We need to stop them politically and we must develop alternative networks of support outside existing government and non-profit structures. We need to get out of our simmering pots and look up to the horizon. We need to do it soon.

Human Value Chain Infographic

Human Capital Infographic

Biocapitalism Infographic

 

Doctrine of Discovery Redux: The Vatican’s Plans For Impact Investing

I watched the video of Helen Alford’s talk months ago, and I still can’t get it out of my head. A Dominican nun trained in “human-centered technology” who holds a PhD in engineering management from Cambridge regaling a room full of aspiring impact investors on how the Catholic church plans to be the conscience of big business in the coming decades. Even though she notes there are many peace and justice folks who believe wading into human capital impact investing is akin to taking up with the devil, well…circumstances require it, so better just get with the program.

Alford goes on to say how excited she is that the Church will be at the center of social innovation over the next twenty years; it’ll be just like fifteenth century Florence. She describes bishops using innovative approaches to reduce big manuals of moral economic decision-making, which to me smacks frighteningly of religious Blockchain smart contracts. This moment of existential crisis brought on by climate catastrophe and economic uncertainty appears to be the perfect window of opportunity for the Catholic church to usher in a new age of evangelism. Their leaders intend to tap lay people worldwide to spread the church’s teachings through politics, economics and technology.

This truly feels like the logical extension of the Doctrine of Discovery, white western Christianity calling dibs on a dawning age of cloud-based extractivism. Once again the rich and powerful draw up plans to prey on Black and Brown communities, taking resources that are not theirs, extinguishing lives, and erasing cultures. Just as adoption of double-entry bookkeeping in 1494 coincided with expansion of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, so now does the roll out of self-sovereign identity and Blockchain public benefit systems coincide with new forms of digital bondage that have been devised by financiers intent trading in life outcomes of the poor. This time instead of of shackles and whips, those in power plan to exert their domination using Big Data, machine learning, “smart” environments, predictive analytics, algorithms and behavioral economic nudges. Such is the brutal business of human capital finance.

The conference at which Alford presented was held at the Vatican on June 16-18, 2014. I touched upon Sir Ronald Cohen’s participation here. It was the first of three biennial social impact conferences co-hosted by Catholic Relief Services, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame.

Notre Dame has the largest endowment of any Catholic institution of higher education in the United States and is in the top tier of schools nationwide (source). Scott Malpass, appointed an advisor to the Vatican Bank in 2017, knows $8.7 billion is a lot of capital to keep in motion. Supposed “anti-poverty” initiatives that enable the church to advance its missionary purpose while controlling potentially volatile populations probably look like a pretty attractive “social impact” investment option. It’s not surprising the business school would be interested in growing this sector.

Notre Dame also hosts several programs advancing wireless technology, smart sensors, and social network signals intelligence project underwritten by defense and scientific interests. Of course such systems represent critical infrastructure needed to generate and manage real time data flows for speculative human capital investment. South Bend, the home of Notre Dame, is also home to Pete Buttigieg, a darling of the neoliberal think tank crowd. Buttigieg saw the creation of a “City of Lifelong Learning” pilot program in South Bend, a cradle to gray workforce development effort led by the Drucker (Peter) Institute, with distinct social impact investing overtones.

vatican Impact Conference 2014

Interactive map of above here.

The idea for the first Vatican impact investing conference, “Investing for the Poor: How Impact Investing Can Serve The Common Good In Light Of Evangelii Gaudium,” was originally pitched by Dr. Carolyn Woo, a professor of global business currently working at Purdue. Woo served as the dean of the Notre Dame business school from 1997 to 2011, then led Catholic Relief Services from 2012 to 2016 (she served on the CRS board from 2004-2010). Purdue was the first university to pilot income sharing agreements (Back a Boiler), has launched a global online degree program, and is a partner in Skillful Indiana. Social impact investments in ed-tech and digital skills training certainly sync with her university’s goals. Another Notre-Dame affiliate who participated in the conference was Roger Huang, a professor of global finance and long-time board member of a Baltimore-area Catholic health system.

There were many attendees, and I won’t list them all, but I do want to point out two additional individuals of interest. The first is Tom Steyer of Farallon Capital Management, a protégé of Robert Rubin a Goldman Sachs guy who served as Treasury Secretary under Clinton. Steyer founded Beneficial Bank with his wife Kathryn Taylor and is a mover and shaker in Democratic circles. He’s also a major force in the “Wrong Kind of Green” environmental movement. Tom’s brother Jim Steyer founded Common Sense Media, a non-profit that vets online content for children and is funded by many ed-tech philanthropies including Omidyar Network. Margie Sullivan worked with Steyer at Farallon for over a decade having built a career in federal contracting working for HUD, Department of the Defense, and the Office of the US Trade Representative. After leaving Farallon, Sullivan landed at USAID. She now manages her own consulting firm.

Steyer Vatican

Interactive map above here.

As you can see from the agenda, the goal was to get everyone on the same page about what social impact investing is and line up next steps to develop that market. One of the outcomes of the gathering was the creation of an Advisory Committee on Impact Investing for Catholic Relief Services with four working groups: Education, Communications, Impact Investments, and Relationship to a Potential Private Equity Fund. Goals included identifying areas for potential investment, developing a framework to evaluate options, and recommending a number of pilot projects. Carolyn Woo served as co-chair along with Patricia Dinneen, social justice chair of the of the Boston Archdiocese pastoral council who not coincidentally is also the impact investing chair for the Emerging Markets Private Equity Association. Including the subcommittees there are over 36 members, which you can explore here. Below is a screenshot of a selection of them.

Advisory Committee Impact investing Vatican

I do believe the plan is to codify in computer code Old Testament dictates that some will attempt to pass off as spirituality. Their manuals to make “moral” economic decisions will be algorithms. They will sort the “worthy” from the “unworthy” and cast out or smite those unlucky enough to fall into the latter category. They want us to believe that technology is the answer. The Pope has been meeting with folks from Microsoft about using AI to “help” the poor. Catholic University is taking that idea and running with it, pushing a “Catholic Blockchain.” Rick Santorum is developing a Catholic-friendly crypto-currency Cathio. We know technology isn’t the answer. It will simply reinforce the dominant power structures that have been in place for the past four hundred years. Rules will be encoded to maintain existing social order and preference racist ideals and hierarchy and paternalism.

Pope Microsoft

Catholic Blockchain

Cathio Crypto Bitcoin.jpg

What follows are clips from Alford’s talk with transcripts of the sections that informed my introductory remarks. 

Investing for the Poor: How Impact Investing Can Serve The Common Good in the Light of Evangelii Gaudium

June 16-17, 2014: Catholic Relief Services, Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace, and University of Notre Dame Mendoza School of Business

Video 9: Impact Investing in the Light of Evangelii Gaudium: Sister Helen J. Alford

Regarding the 2012 Synod on the New Evangelization

Timestamp 16:30 minutes to 19:20

Now just to give you quick background on why this arises, the New Evangelization, why is this? Well as far as I know it started, the first time it was used was in a meeting between Pope John Paul the Second, our canonized Pope John Paul the Second, and the Latin American Bishops in a meeting. And he started in his talk, he talked about this idea for the need of a new evangelization. And then it got picked up much later and finally we have this synod on this topic.

What does it mean “new,” because it seems odd in a way. Isn’t it the sort of core business of the church talking about the gospel and spread the gospel? So what does it mean? Well, I think out of the synod documents if you look at them, three main things come out. Just so you have an idea again, I’ll try to be very quick on why this, what the background to this document.

First of all the New Evangelization renewed commitment, renewed preaching of the gospel in parts of the world that have been evangelized for centuries. Okay? “New” can mean all kinds of things. It can mean new ways of doing it. It could mean entering into new sectors, which is the second. Places where the church perhaps hasn’t really entered as fully as it could have. The gospel hasn’t really entered as fully as it could. Perhaps in economics. Perhaps in politics. Um, perhaps in influencing the way that technological development takes place. These kinds of things saw a pushing out into areas; it’s not that there was never any interest, but perhaps not enough. You know it needs to be deeper, stronger, more pressed the gospel in those things.

And then as was already mentioned widening of the actors that are involved, especially as far as the Catholic Church is concerned. Reformed churches are different in this regard, better in this regard. Lay people, all the baptized being involved in evangelization. Each Christian is a bearer of Christ and is in that sense part of the mission of the church. So also connects with the bringing of the church into economics, into politics. All these baptized Christians in these sectors bringing with them the gospel message.

Perhaps we could say just as the last thing, some people would see the new evangelization as a kind of response to an existential crisis in many levels that we experience in the world today. We have climate crisis. We also have demographic crisis. Aging in many countries and problems of dealing with population changes, that kind of thing. Crisis of morality, how do we handle moral questions? In a pluralistic world, how do hand morals off from parents to children? Transmission? So, lots and lots of aspects of this crisis. The new evangelization is a sort of a response.

Breaking Down the Silos

Timestamp 20:00

We have to recognize the crucial role of business and hence in investment in confronting problems of poverty and other social problems. Yesterday, Sir Ronald Cohen was talking about bits of a quick history of how we’ve dealt with social problems. First of all the industrial revolution, and it was largely philanthropy. Then gradually developed the idea that governments should be doing things. Now we’re going through another transformation. It’s just another transformation. The church’s social teachings have dealt with these transformations before and it will deal with this transformation, too.

It’s a new phase in which we’re seeing a break down of these strict divisions between government, business, and civil society. It’s in Caritas Veritate, so we have absolute, you know uh, the seal of approval from the church. If you read Caritas Veritate number 36 around the area around paragraph 40, it’s all about how we need to break down these barriers between these sectors. And we need, for instance, as he calls it a logic of gift coming into business, but we also need business models coming into civil society. We need to learn from each other. Okay? This is a new phase that we’re going into, and the church, we need to take this on board.

You know, Father Seamus, was talking yesterday about how a lot of his justice and peace people would be, you know they’d have their hands up like this at a meeting like this. They never, it’ll be like talking to the devil you know coming in and talking to people who are involved in investment. You know, that kind of thing. You know, I mean, ok. This, we already mentioned, Carolyn mentioned this morning there’s big problems in business. Of course there are big problems, that’s probably why you all are here. So, sort of deal with some of those problems, but this idea that we’ve demonized, that we won’t have anything to do with it, and we should just keep pushing on getting governments to, it’s just, it’s not being realistic about our situation.

Strengths and Weaknesses Analysis

Timestamp 35:30

This was looking at things like impact investing in the light of Evangelii Gaudium. Let’s just look at strengths and opportunities, okay? Uses the primary mechanisms we know for poverty elimination-entrepreneurship and markets. Focuses on that, attracts many different investors and entrepreneurs to solving social problems. So we’re really drawing all kinds of resources into dealing with the major problems that from the point of view of the church, from the point of view of society as a whole, we recognize we have to face.

We have opportunities, because there are so many problems to deal with, and through partnership with local government and NGOs we can create integrated solutions. Those are somewhat responding to a weaknesses and threats from the other side. Then also from Catholic social thought what are the learnings that we can get from impact investing? Well we have a very strong focus on dignity of the human person, which can sometimes be lacking in the business sphere.

And precisely because we have an institution called the church, we have a little bit of distance from business, which we can avoid this problem of capture just being absorbed into, we can have a critical distance as a church institution-a good partner, but also providing as well. That’s what good partners do for each other.

We, we as a church I think, several people have said this, we’re going to move even in the next twenty years from a rather defensive position with regard to the modern world to being in the main stream, to being one of the institutions which are going to carry forward social innovation.

It will be more like fifteenth century Florence in the future with the Catholic Church right in the middle of all kinds of innovations. The bishops are reducing big manuals on how to deal with moral problems in economics, you know. I mean this is going to start happening more in the future, just because of the situation that we’re in. And business increasingly recognizes its need for partnership.

Ok last thing, last page. We need to create a more solid dialogue. You can see here, many of you will say that’s a bit naïve some of the little things you said. It’s just the beginning of the time. We need a more solid dialogue between the church and faith communities and impact investing. We need to ask what to the various members in the church need to do to promote a business culture that puts the poor at the center. That puts inclusion right at the center. Okay? How could the business system be converted to serving the poor?